WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Border Patrol is mourning the passing of one of the Border Patrol’s most revered and recognized figures, Gustavo De La Viña, retired Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol. Chief De La Vina died unexpectedly of natural causes on Monday, October 26, 2009, in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He had been serving as a private adviser in Bosnia-Herzegovina at the time of his death.

Chief De La Vina entered on duty with the Border Patrol in 1970 as a member of class 96. He held a variety of positions during his career, including Supervisory Border Patrol Agent at the Border Patrol Academy, Los Fresnos; Supervisory Border Patrol Agent in McAllen; Chief of the Border Patrol Academy in Glynco, Georgia; and Deputy Chief Patrol Agent in El Paso. Chief De La Vina also served as Western Regional Director of the INS after four-year tenure as the Chief Patrol Agent of the San Diego Sector, then the busiest Border Patrol Sector in the nation.

Chief De La Vina was a leader in thinking about the borders strategically. He initiated Operation Gatekeeper in the early 1990’s, adding infrastructure, technology and more agents along the border to discourage immigrants from entering the country illegally. Chief De La Vina’s strategic vision was the foundation of the current border enforcement strategy.

Chief De la Vina also created the Border Patrol’s Border Safety Initiative. This cooperative effort between the U.S. and Mexico reduced the potential for loss of life along the border by warning would-be crossers of the perils of crossing illegally, and rescuing those in danger.

Chief De La Vina was appointed Chief of the Border Patrol in December 1997 and served in that capacity until the time of his retirement from the Border Patrol in 2004. During his tenure as Chief, he was recognized by two presidential administrations for his superior management accomplishments. In 1999, President Clinton conferred the rank of Distinguished Executive in the Senior Executive Service on Chief De La Vina for “extraordinary accomplishment in management of programs of the United States Government and for leadership exemplifying the highest standards of service to the public.” In 2002 President Bush conferred the rank of Meritorious Executive in the Senior Executive Service on Chief De La Vina for “sustained superior accomplishment in management of programs of the United States Government and for noteworthy achievement of quality and efficiency in the public service”.

Chief De La Vina was at the helm, guiding the Border Patrol’s actions through the terrorist attacks of September 11th and through the transition of the Border Patrol from the Department of Justice to the Customs and Border Protection. Few leaders have faced and overcome challenges of the magnitude, complexity, and urgency as those faced and overcome by Chief De La Vina.

Chief De La Vina was born and raised in Edinburg, and graduated from Pan American University with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Local residents in Chief De La Vina’s hometown of Edinburg will conduct a memorial service at 7 p.m on Monday, Nov. 2 at the El Buen Pastor Methodist Church, 705 E. University Drive Edinburg.

A private viewing will be held from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., followed by a public viewing from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3 at the Queen of Heaven Funeral Home, 1562 Baseline Road, Mesa, Ariz.

A memorial service will be conducted at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 4 at St. Anne’s Church, 440 East Elliot Road Gilbert, Ariz. Internment services at Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Mesa Ariz. will follow the memorial service.